Kickstarter for Outlier Kanji dictionary is now live

Wanted to share this here. They have an early bird special the next 17 hours or so from now. I’m not affiliated with them, just trying to help get the project a good wind since I’d like to use their dictionary :smiley:

Edit: Removed


Is it just me or does this look absolutely terrible for learning kanji? On top of that they’re charging $30 it. They say they’re just going to adapt it from their Chinese version, so I doubt it’s going to look any better when it comes out.


I think understanding the etymology can potentially help one to see relationships between kanji. I don’t think it is going to replace wanikani, but it would be a fascinating resource. I just backed them.

Sure, I can see that, but the way they’re doing it is just a list of info. It might be good for lookup, as a dictionary, but I highly doubt it would be efficient as a learning tool.

Thanks for sharing. At cursory glance, this seems pretty neat. It’s 2AM here, so I can’t give it a closer look now, but I’ll be interested in seeing what other people’s opinions are.

@Kumirei I haven’t given the interface a look, but I think the concept at least is interesting. It’s not SRS, but it may offer an alternative way of looking at kanji/building mnemonics/establishing connections between various kanji which can then be incorporated by users into their SRS regimens. It reminds me a bit of Kodansha in that way. My concern is that their system, while useful for kanji that symbolically represent their meaning, will fall apart for more abstract kanji. Kodansha manages that issue by not being married to one single method of teaching the kanji, but I’m not sure how these guys will approach the issue. I guess I’ll need to do a bit of digging at not 2AM.

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Right, this is an etymological dictionary, not a learning tool. It could definitely help reinforce learning though.

They’re selling it as “the ultimate kanji learning tool”. That’s a direct quote.

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Can I just pay them to make more of these videos?


I wish they’d make a YouTube channel and post one of those every day

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The original form of the kanji looks like an adorable slightly surprised monster


The video seems quite convincing, and I agree that “two hands pushing open a door” sounds more structured and easier to remember than “lighting a lantern of the gate you want to open.”

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Are they kickstarting until they are finally kickstarted?

At least $30,000 seems more modest this time.


I like this project, but WK destroyed all for me. Now all nmenomics are built around different meanings. If I get another resource without using those mnemonics and fake “radicals” then it would be like learning again everything.

The tiers are too expensive. A pdf for 10€… most of the people who learn japanese are young, have no money. I have money but I won’t pay 40 to get the app. Seriously.

Thank you! I was having deja vu when I looked at the Kickstarter page.

They’re marketing it as a learning tool. It seems good until you realize there are no lessons, reviews or vocab and that you’d be just brute-forcing thousand of kanji. It’s basically just mnemonics (though "real” ones as opposed to WK’s made up ones), without the structure that would make it appropriate for learning.

It seems good for squashing those pesky leeches, or for when WK’s mnemonics fall short, but $25 for an app?

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It does seem to be a lot for an app, but I think they’re basing their prices on the various dictionary apps offered by some major Japanese publishers.

Now I wonder how much more innovative they really are compared to the other etymological books on the market. I did a quick search and came upon this guy here.

Obviously, the Outlier people look a lot more qualified than that single guy, but what are they bringing in that justifies $50+ for the Expert edition (MRSP $60+)? They don’t offer a PDF of the dictionary, and who’s to say that the people doing the app will continue to provide support for their ‘Lifetime access’ to the dictionary through the app?

I’m not convinced yet, and I really want to be.

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I Kickstarted them at the expert level because the history is really interesting to me, especially getting into the various scripts. My husband dabbles in calligraphy and seeing the evolution of kanji in a handy place would be valuable to me. Thanks for linking!

I’m interested in etymology and looked up all kanji in WK for their phonetic compositions when I did Keisei. I’m very skeptical that “understanding functional components” as touted there is superior to other methods like mnemonics (“cute stories” as they put it). At least it takes much longer to read all that stuff, if you can memorize stuff that doesn’t appear in modern kanji anyway.

For Japanese the phonetic components don’t work out as nicely as they do for Chinese. They are nice to have, but you need some memory-space to memorize the exceptions.

And for the ancient meanings, for example for 春 you get

I mean that’s nice, but does that help you in any way to learn 春 faster?

[I’m a bit interested anyway, but potentially just pulling in stuff from JMDict doesn’t warrant kickstarting, they even make money with an existing product already. I just look at the Chinese edition.]


Do you have a link to the Chinese edition? I’m a lot more interested in that one to be honest.

You can find it at their webpage.

But I remember doing the same thing some months ago with “$60? … maybe later”